inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #51 of 295: put me in coach, I'm ready to play (watadoo) Fri 5 Sep 08 07:21
Teaching self reliance is key. Some parents of kids at my son's school
are shocked, shocked that he rides his bike everyday to school for a
whole half mile down a dirt road. Jeeze. when I was 12 going on 13 my
mother would kick me out of the house on a summer's day and tell me to
go ride my bike and be back by dark for dinner. 

The best thing I've done for my boy is send him to a 2 week sports
camp in Canada last summer. He had to deal with his making his flight
(TSA wouldn't let me go through security to the gate), getting through
customs after landing, finding his own baggage and the representative
from the camp who met him. He then had to live communally with 65 other
boys in a dorm, get his own meals, take showers, feed himself and get
his sh&$ together to make it onto the ice for 5 hours of session a day.
He did it all didn't lose a thing, including his camera and passport.
He thanked me for the fun time he had and mention that he thinks he's a
stronger more capable person now. He's really proud of being
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #52 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Fri 5 Sep 08 07:39
I devote a good portion of my book, and some of the earlier posts in
this discussion, to pointing out what really makes people (kids are
people, too) happy...which is meeting a challenge, which is the only
possible means of growth. The sense of satisfaction, the sense of
accomplishment, the sense of mastery all give kids a great foundation
for becoming independent, which, of course, is the goal of

A Nation of Wimps grew out of the observations and reporting I had
done in 2002, breaking the story of Crisis on the Campus, discovering
that once they left the protective cocoon of home for college and the
emotional training wheels came off, America's kids were breking down
psychologically in record numbers. Many suffering from depression, from
anxiety including panic attacks, engaging in self-mutilation, and of
course record numbers with eating disorders. It was exploration of this
phenomenon that led me to discover how this generation is different
from previous one, and what changed. 

Giving kids the experiences of getting to hockey camp on their own or
riding their bikes on their own may invite the judgment of negligence
from some parents. But it is an invaluable gift to kids. It strengthens
them within. No one can ever take that away from them. And it is as
good an inoculation against depression and anxiety as it gets.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #53 of 295: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Fri 5 Sep 08 09:24

I wonder how the next generation will parent after having suffered
through overprotective parents themselves? Do you have any indications
about what is starting to occur?
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #54 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Fri 5 Sep 08 10:03
This is a terrific question. I consider their behavior as parents and
as citizens a great social experiment we're engaged in; the outcome is
unknown just now, and unknowable just now. The leading edge of the
generation that we're talking about is in their 20s. They're just
beginning to move into the job market (sometimes bringing mom or dad
along on those job's astounding that a kid might ask
mom or dad along; it's way beyond belief that a parent would even
consider going, instead of coaching their kid on how to handle a job
interview). They are some distance away from becoming parents.

My fondest hope for them is that they stumble early...and, with or
without professional help, learn they can pick themselves up, dust
themselves off, and get on with life, becoming a bit more resilient in
the process. 

I've seen some of these kids as interns. You edit a piece of their
copy and the next thing you find out is that they're in the bathroom
crying their eyes out. They can't believe anything they do isn't
perfect, and—-this is really the scary part—-they can't tolerate the
possibility of imperfection. If that isn't fragility I don't know what
is. They shatter so easily. 

We didn't see this in our interns a few years ago. This is something
very new. No one loves to be edited but everyone needs to be edited.
You give interns (actually, everyone) back their edited copy so they
can see the improvements and understand what needed to be changed and
why. You look at it and learn. Today's interns just look at it and
shatter, unable to tolerate the idea that they everything they do might
not be perfect.

Will they absorb the lessons so that they can go on to become great
journalists? Too soon to tell. 
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #55 of 295: Mr. Death is coming after you, too (divinea) Fri 5 Sep 08 11:09
Hara, thank you SO MUCH for writing this book. I'm enjoying it very

I have noticed, especially over the past few years, that these
cotton-wrapped children have one of two approaches to adults in
leadership positions (in my case, a Girl Scout troop): they either
treat you like staff, and tell you what you should be doing for them,
or they  just ignore you and your stupid RULES. I wonder how helicopter
parents contribute to these attitudinal problems- especially in an
affluent community like the one where I live. 

The other observation that I've made, over several years of
leadership, is that the kids who are waited on and micromanaged are
completely unable to occupy themselves unless you make pointed
suggestions for things that they might do; what is even more
interesting to me is that the *parents* can't bear a minute of
unstructured time. If the girls are left to amuse themselves for a few
minutes, the parents don't appear to trust that they can do anything
"worthwhile" under their own steam, and they will intervene, even in
the middle of someone else's program. Do you have any insights to offer
on this? 
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #56 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Fri 5 Sep 08 12:11
I'm glad to hear that you are liking the book. Thank YOU. Oh yes, the
tendency to tell YOU what you should  be doing for them. Funny you
mention that. I almost added a paragraph about that to  my previous
post, because that is exactly what i experienced with the last intern
who was shattered by being edited. 

One of the unfortunate byproducts of being micromanaged is that the
passivity sticks to the soul. Such kids do not...can not, as it's never
been part of their experience... take an active approach to figuring
out what to do, even when they complain of being bored. The parents
have successfully communicated that these kids cant do anythng on t
heir own. That message gets internalized. 

But these kids are not inherently defective, there's no geneetic
difference from kids of previous generations. I think that if they are
left to flounder for a while, they will, on their own, figure out
something to do. 

Trust is a whole big issue. It's what's missing. Parents don't trust
the natural course of development. They don't trust their kids. They
don't trust the institutions that serve them. And they don't trust
anyone else.This is one reason why I worry about the future. Trust is
the bedrock of civil society.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #57 of 295: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Fri 5 Sep 08 18:01
One of the big culture-shock things for me as a parent has been the
widespread use of portable TV sets and video games in cars.  Parents
seem to have this urge to keep their kids quiet by plugging them in to
a screen, any screen. We went on a lot of long car trips when I was a
kid, and I take my kid on car trips. We bring books and games and
sometimes an audiobook or MP3 player, but we always seem to run out of
batteries in the first couple hours and we never even *remember* to
bring the GameBoy. I've wondered why parents seem to think that their
kids can't be alone with thier thoughts for a few hours - and what
you're describing seems like the inevitable consequence. 

But there's a flipside, too. I received a notice this week about this
new book:
Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by
John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, and these are the same kids - the ones
IM'ing and twittering and constantly on the cell phone, spreading
their identities out across the digital space. Always plugged in. 

I'm part of the bridge generation, as are a great many folks on the
WELL - people born before the transistor who have been using these
technologies since their infancy. I'll be old by the time that these
children come to power, and it's too soon to tell whether they're
going to grow up into something new and interesting, or whether
they're *going* to grow up.

Asking about parents though - I can bet one thing: *their* kids will
do it differently. Maybe they'll re-discover concentration and contemplation!
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #58 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Fri 5 Sep 08 19:01
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the new
technologies. I don't think they're the end of civilization as we know
it. The problem is the way we use them. Many of the gadgets are new and
captivating and they're marketed powerfully and as a culture we've
flipped for them...and it's thrown a lot things out of balance. Yes,
I've noticed that parents are often quite happy to have their kids
entertained by electronic stuff because it keeps them off the streets,
out of what they perceive to be harm's way. I'm not sure they realize
the cost of passive entertainment vs active pursuits. 

Contemplation requires being comfortable with oneself. One problem of
the overprotected, overmanaged, boundary-invaded kids is they don't
HAVE a sense of self, they have no core identity. They haven't had the
kids of experiences that build iden3tity. They haven't had the
opportuniity to do anything for themself, to figure out what that self
is. You can't develop one unless you've rubbed some rough edges in life
and explored and developed your own idiosyncratic ways of coping. 
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #59 of 295: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Sat 6 Sep 08 03:23
>>> Many of the gadgets are new and captivating and they're marketed
powerfully and as a culture we've flipped for them...<<<

Hara, why do you think we've flipped for them? What I mean is, how is
it that as a culture we got to a place where video and computer games
are more captivating and interesting to kids (and are used as child
pacifiers by adults) than exploring the woods or fishing in the creek
or hiking the nearby hill? 

I share <betsys>'s mystification at the use of video and video games
inside cars, too. Every summer when I was a kid our family drove from
California to the Midwest to visit relatives. My sister and I had a few
comic books and car games to keep us occupied, but mostly there was
the landscape passing by to watch and daydream about -- all those
spines of mountains in Nevada, the immensity of Wyoming, the smell of
wheat and corn in Nebraska and the red farm silos of Iowa. If you had
asked me back then I'd have told you I hated those driving trips, but
they very much informed who I grew into as an adult and now I can't
imagine my life without the love for landscape that those trips gave. 
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #60 of 295: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Sat 6 Sep 08 05:05
Something else occurs to me. My childhood in the '50s and '60s, which
allowed me the freedom to explore my neighborhood and town with my pals
(and to gain, from those explorations, confidence and independence)
and which was similar to the childhoods of millions of other American
kids in those years, was the result not so much of different values but
of prosperity. A family in the 1960s could maintain a middle-class
life on one income. Mothers, as a general rule, stayed home, which
provided kids with the security and back-up safety they needed to roam.
But as Hara has mentioned here a few times, that U.S. economy is a
historical artifact; it has been replaced by a new, fluid, much less
secure, almost frontier-like global economy. 

It's equally fascinating and disturbing how economic changes influence
the way we raise our children.  
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #61 of 295: R's dad (aslan) Sat 6 Sep 08 05:34
Wow, just caught up on everything said so far.  Hard to keep up with a
bunch of WELL writers on fire.

I have personally struggled with my own underlying inclination to know
every detail of what my (now 8-year-old) daughter is doing at all
times, and to solve every problem she might have.  I have made a
conscious decision since her infancy to let her solve as many of her
own challenges as possible, whether it involve climbing trees in the
park or dealing with other people at school.  That is not to say that I
never step in; just that if I DIDN'T make that conscious effort I know
my tendency to take over would rear its ugly head. 

That said, I was raised with a huge amount of freedom to explore the
world, and I give her as much of that freedom as she is ready to
accept.  This means that I DO deal with busybodies telling me she is
way too young to go to the corner store on her own (I started at least
a year younger than she did, and I had to cross a busy street to do

On the other hand, there are some things I don't let her do (e.g. stay
in the car with the windows down on a not-too-hot day), not because I
have any fears of abductors, but because someone probably will call the

I would give her more unstructured time if there was someone she could
share that time with.  In the summer, there is -- she can go to the
park and more often than not find a friend to play with.  Some summer
days she will be out for 6 or 8 hours straight, and then show up with a
friend asking for supper.

But during the school year, everything has to be arranged in advance
or there is nobody there.  And while freedom to explore is one thing,
it isn't much fun doing it all by yourself -- at least not for her.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #62 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 07:18
Let us try to avoid using our own childhoods as the benchmarks of what
is good, true and beautiful. Our children live in a different world,
and they are moving forward. The technology and its uses are vastly
different today, for good and for ill. And I think our cultural
infatuation with it all(the hype that attends the release of a new
iPhone is just amazing) has blinded us to where it belongs best. I
agree, not in the back seat of the car. But really, that's no different
from having the screen on the seat in the airplane. I think we now
need to start making some rules about where these things belong, and
frankly, families are free to set their own values and make their own
rules. I know people...perfectly good people, not Luddites and not
nuts...who don't own a TV set. I know college professors who have
banned cellphones and laptops in their classrooms...and guess what? It
turns out everyone likes it better and everyone pays more attention. 

Hey, #61, I really share your pain. You would give your daughter more
unstructured time if there were someone she could share it with. Yes,
yes, and yes. This is the great tragedy; there are some changes parents
can make on their own (resist buying a cellphone with GPS technology
that allows you to track your kid's movements; instead develop a bond
of trust with your kid). You can't create playmates. But what you can
do, and I really think this is important, you can try to talk to some
parents who might be like-minded on these issues. And agree to let the
kids play together without constant monitoring. Now this is kind of a
bastard solution, because it might involve some planning, but once the
kids are together, they're on their own. 

It isn't just the economy that has changed. Something deep in the
social fabric has ruptured, and I worry about this more. Trust. There
are so many aspects to what is going on, and part of it is that parents
not only overmonitor their own kids, they distrust others to do the
job as well as they do. So you have the absurdity of 14 parents
accompanying 11 kids to one grassy bus stop that is right in front of
the kitchen window of another parent. You don't trust your neighbor to
look after your precious one and meet all his/her needs the way you
would. I think a big part of it is that parents are terrified that
little Johnnie might be unhappy for a second or two. They desperately
don't want their kids to be unhappy, even though they have a mistaken
view of what happiness is and how you get it.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #63 of 295: David Albert (aslan) Sat 6 Sep 08 07:43
    <scribbled by aslan Sat 6 Sep 08 07:43>
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #64 of 295: David Albert (aslan) Sat 6 Sep 08 07:44
(Correcting some phrasing).

It's true: I DON'T want my kid to be unhappy.

I actually do trust just about every other parent in the neighborhood
to look out for my kid.  But what I don't want to do is impose, and in
this day and age there is no such expectation.  Therefore, it becomes
an imposition if I leave my kid at the bus stop "unattended", that is,
unattended by me -- whether I explicitly ask others to look out for her
or not.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #65 of 295: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sat 6 Sep 08 07:47
It's funny, one of the reasons I'm working so hard to give my daughter
freedom is that in my own childhood, I was *not* trusted or
trustworthy, and I managed to carve out a very great deal of
unsupervised time for myself and go a lot of places under the radar
(and my parents *were* paying attention). I survived because of a
mixture of good luck and a fair bit of common sense, even as a
teenager. This has made me very very aware that I won't necessarily be
able to protect my own kid by controlling where she goes or who she is
with. If she's going to be safe she *must* have those safeguards on the
*inside*, her own common sense and safety instincts.

For similar reasons, I don't do things like filter her internet or
screen her email. (also, as an internet professional, I know too well
how ineffective external filters are.) If I want to keep her safe, my
best bet is to have *her* recognize a dangerous situation. 

That's yet *another* problem with overprotecting children: if we try
to keep them away from ALL dangers, how do they learn what's truly
dangerous and what's only a small risk? I keep ranting about the Say No
To Drugs/Great Body curriculum. My kid came home in first grade with a
poster that said "don't put drugs into your Great Body" and showed a
picture of three drugs: a cigarette, a joint, and a wine cooler. She
looks in our refrigerator, sees the six-pack that's moldering in the
back, and goes "MOM! WHY ARE THERE DRUGS IN HERE!". 

I don't want my child to take any illegal drugs, and I have told her
so at length, but I want her to know that there are differences between
a wine cooler and heroin and "huffing" (which kills a lot of young
kids dead). I know damn well she will be exposed to drugs and alcohol
and I want *her* armed with the information to make intelligent

 (For example: a few beers won't kill you by themselves, but drinking
beer can destroy your judgment so you can't recognize a really dumb
idea that *could*.  Being alone with out of control drinkers could hurt
you badly. Getting into a car with a driver who had a beer could kill
you dead. Oh, and you can call me any time day or night and I will come
get you and your friends from anywhere and I promise not to say a word
until the next morning)

( )

(<aslan> "slipped")
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #66 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 08:07
David, i wasn't so much thinking of leaving your kid unattended at the
bus stop (but what's so wrong with leaving a bunch of kids
unattended?) as having the neighbor who passes your house anyway with
his kid also pick up your kid, so you don't need the 14 parents
standing there with 11 kids.

My experience squares with Betsy's. My kids had the explicit
instructions that they could call at any hour day or night if they
needed to; there's something about that backup support, the knowledge
of it, the security it imparts, that helps kids with their decisions. I
wasn't raised that way. If I called my father at 3 a.m., we couldn't
deal with an issue until the screaming died down; that was a great
disincentive not to call.

Not only can't we keep our kids from all dangers...why on earth should
we? Sooner or later they're going to face them. I'd rather have my
kids face them when I can be reached at 3 a.m. for backup support than
when they're older. I'd rather my kids face some dangers, learn how to
cope, and get some confidence in their ability to manage themselves;
this is true preparation for their future. Anything else handicaps them
for their own future.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #67 of 295: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 6 Sep 08 11:05
David I think you make a really good point about worrying about our kids.
That's what parents do.  And I too battle myself as to how much to watch
them so I can protect them vs. how much I need to let them go and figure it
for themselves.

Right now my children are at the park.  I left them there with water bottles
and money for snacks at the vending machine and the directions home (okay,
they knew how to get home without my directions).  I am nervous because it's
the first time they're doing this.  But I trust that they know what they're
doing.  I think the trust issue, as Hara writes, is the key to all of this.
Trust them, but also trust that I've taught them well enough to handle
things.  Hara writes about parents thinking their kids just aren't capable
of being independent and thinking on their own and doing things for
themselves.  I just don't believe that about my kids.  I KNOW they are
capable.  It's not them that worries me, ever, with regards to giving them
independence.  For me it's a coupling of my own fears of the world and my
own fears of how other parents may view me and my children when I'm not
there to protect them.

The amazing thing is, when I leave my children at a friend's house or send
them into a store on their own, the feedback I get from the adults they
encounter is always positive.  I hear how polite my children are.  I hear
how they wait their turn and speak respectfully.  I hear how they knew to
ask for help or directions, when needed.  That feedback is what I repeat to
myself now as I wait for them to come home from the park.  It helps ease my
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #68 of 295: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Sat 6 Sep 08 11:35

>  Something deep in the social fabric has ruptured,

I think you've identified a core point with that statement. We're in an
era of unprecedented change and that is profoundly unsettling.  We're
living in Toffler's "Future Shock" world where profound change is the
norm. As an optimist, I would say that we're undergoing the death of an
old and the birth of a new social fabric. But that process is as traumatic
socially as the human birth process is individually if not more so.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #69 of 295: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 6 Sep 08 12:10
(the kids are home. they had fun. no biggie, mom)
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #70 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 12:12
Today's parents didn't invent anxiety. I think anxiety has been an
inevitable part of parenting from the beginning. But it's what you do
with that anxiety. There's Lisa, holding her breath a bit, because her
kids are at the park for the first time on their own. Now that's
admirable...that the kids are there on their own AND that Lisa is
finding a way to manage her own anxieties WITHOUT CONTAMINATING THE
KIDS WITH HER FEELINGS and paralyzing them with her fears. We're all
responsible for managing our own emotions. That's what adulthood is.
she has educated her kids about how to handle things...and then let go
a bit. a bit. she hasn't gone off for the weekend and left the kids to
fend for themselves. she's let out the leash a tiny bit, based on the
kids' ability to handle themselves...and handle themselves with aplomb,
no less, according to the feedback she gets.

I think we parents always battle with our own anxieties. And that's
not a bad dialogue to have with ourselves. By that self-talk we can
keep our fears to ourselves, where they should be on these issues.

Where I think many parents are mistaken is in putting their own
emotional needs ahead of their kids' developmental needs. There's
always going to be parental anxiety; our obligation is to find a way to
manage it. So Lisa gets the gold star of the day. After all, the goal
of raising kids is to produce an independent, autonomous adult. Kids
have a developmental needs for incremental doses of independence, just
as they have a need for incrementally challenging math problems or
books. none of us started out reading War and Peace in kindergarten. it
is extremely unwise, not to mention incredibly selfish, to let our
fears restrict their development.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #71 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 12:13
Yay, Lisa. I'm cheering for you. And your kids.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #72 of 295: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Sat 6 Sep 08 15:25
Fascinating that you cast over-protectiveness as "selfish" when the
parents would say that they're doing everything for their kids, but I
think you are dead-on right. 
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #73 of 295: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 6 Sep 08 15:49
Thank you. I'm cheering for my kids, too.  It's no different for parents
than it is for kids: until we live through the pain we don't know we can
handle it.

Hara, do you think the fear of empty nest syndrome fuels some helicopter
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #74 of 295: Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 6 Sep 08 16:27
Betsy, it's selfish to let one's own anxieties, and especially the
ones that don't even get examined as to how reality-based they are,
take precedence in childrearing over the needs of children to take the
next developmental step towards independence. This is one big element
that is crippling kids from within, making them psychologically
fragile, or as i say, wimps.

Lisa, fear of the empty nest plays a big role in retarding
independence of older kids. huge role. this is where parents don't want
their kids fledging for at least two reasons: they enjoy the
companionship of their kids, and their kids moving on remind them too
much that they themselves are aging. the parents themselves want to
delay the next stage of their lives. often enough, it turns out, it's
because the marital bond is defunct or really missing in action.
remember, these families have been child-centered for years. both mom
and dad have taken much of their emotional joy and social meaning from
the achievements of the kids. very often, it seems like a daunting or
even impossible or possibly dangerous task to examine the marriage and
see how to re-energize it. lots of marriages fall apart now when the
kids leave, because the adults haven't paid much attention to each
other, only to the kids.

I remember clearly when my younger son went off to college. wow, the
house was suddenly quiet. but even before that, i could feel myself
approaching the departure with a little dread, and i analyzed the
situation and realized that my husband and i had to move closer to each
other. and we did. but it takes planning. we hadn't really grown
apart, and we had always had summers when the kids were away to
remember our own relationship and to become a couple again. it always
took a few days, but we always did it. some marriages have much, much
more to repair. the adults have to reacquaint themselves with each
other, update themselves on each other. and sometimes one or the other
doesn't want to make the effort. or one of them found someone on the
outside to give them the attention they weren't getting at home.
inkwell.vue.335 : Hara Estroff Marano, A Nation of Wimps
permalink #75 of 295: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 6 Sep 08 16:31
In terms of being over-protective, how much of a role do you think the
media plays?  My contention is that there were all kinds of bad people
doing bad things to kids back in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, but only in
the last couple of decades have these stories gone national.


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